I’m not a public figure but I have a public persona. I assume it whenever I leave the house or engage with someone else, I’m that person when I give a speech or work with clients. I like to think that this is the same as my private persona, that I’m the same at home as I am outside of it, but this would not be correct. Each of us acts differently whether in a public or private sphere.
We are divided selves, though we most of us act better in public because we sense that we’re being watched.
“Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator,” wrote Hannah Arendt (and thanks to Brain Pickings for alerting me to this).
As Maria Popova writes on her site, “However integrated our layered identity may be, our twined nature stands like a stereogram — two separate and noticeably different views, composed into a single three-dimensional image of personhood only through the special focal mechanism of our own consciousness.”
Our public and private selves are the same but different – perhaps we’re more gregarious when we need to be in social situations, more withdrawn in private to conserve our social energy. A politician may be one thing before a crowd of supporters and another in a meeting room with advisors, one thing during a debate and another at home with loved ones.
But nowhere are the public and private selves more separate than when we’re online. It’s hard to imagine that people who write hate-filled comments under a guise of anonymity can actually be that horrible under their real name. Does being known restrain your baser impulses? Does being anonymous unleash your demons?
In our work with our clients, mainly authors who want to spread their message and become what we’ve come to call, for better or worse, thought leaders, we turn to social media to help these authors find and expand an audience. We work with them to help put forth a true version of themselves, one that represents their soul purpose, or what truly gives them meaning. We hope to offer the real author to the audience, that is, someone who lives according to what he or she has written or urges others to do.
Of course, not everyone is as noble as he professes to be. We’re only human. But the best of us aim to act as we want to be seen to act, that is, to be judged on that appearance we present to the world and to be that person when the world isn’t looking. This isn’t easy – as anyone who scans the screeds on Facebook feeds can attest. But it’s a goal – which is a step forward. We can’t always be who we seem to be, but in acting as if we go a long way toward becoming that better person.[rps]